Smarmy, Pseudo-Intellectual, Quasi-Socialist College Students, Or, Why People Really Don’t Take the Budget Cut Protests Seriously
By: Barry Belmont

And so the debate rages on. Splayed across the collective discussion being had here-and-there in the state is the “budget cuts” to higher education. And invariably in any such discussion a certain character arises whose demeanor is that of the “Smarmy, Pseudo-Intellectual, Quasi-Socialist” (SPIQS if you will) described in the title. Over at The Sagebrush‘s coverage of the University’s recent decisions, a certain “Mark” presents the SPIQS case with all the fallacious bells and logical-pitfall whistles:

Let’s just break that down a bit to see where he, and all those like him, are mistaken and where we can go from there.

Nevadan’s would rather let the fabric of their society crumble than pay a little more in taxes. Besides the obvious poor choice to mix metaphors, the author is mistaken in presenting this as the logic behind the cuts. I am sure that most people (at most times, in most situations) are not in favor of seeing “their society crumble” and we shouldn’t pretend like this is their decision in the matter. [In fact, we should be pretending to know what the "society" wants simply by writ of the actions of a body of governmental officials, but that's a discussion for another day.] Presumably the people of Nevada have deemed that state funds should go to place A instead of place B for a myriad of reasons. It’s comparable (though by no means analogous, as seen in the next paragraph) to why you decide to buy Taco Bell over Del Taco.

Unfortunately, without market signals, this decision will be more prone to be “incorrect” in that it does not provide an optimal solution to problems. This is the problem with public funds to begin with: how do you decide what gets funded and what doesn’t? Do you think state leaders really know how many Taco Bell’s there should be in any particular county? Probably not, that’s a decision made by the collective actions of free individuals. But if state leaders lack the necessary knowledge and skills to plan something as simple as the number of Taco Bells, what makes you think they are capable of knowing the exact dollar amount that should go to make Nevada more prosperous in five, ten, twenty, thirty years down the line?

We shouldn’t pretend that this knowledge is readily available to them, anymore than it is to us. The only difference is that when we make a mistake, we pay for it. If Taco Bell overestimates or underestimates the number of stores to have in Nevada they suffer monetarily and risk going bankrupt. No such incentive exists for those playing with the public funds.

We’re [going to hell in a handbasket] … Let’s finish the job by destroying the university system too. This is the sort of self-importance I was lambasting in my previous article. It is the idea that it is Glorious Higher Education that makes this “morally depraved backwash” of a state worth residing in at all that I find so utterly and unforgivably repugnant. The only thing keeping this dinghy afloat across this salty lake of shit and tears and murder and disease is the Great and Almighty Higher Education System!

No. Nevada is a state just like any other. It’s got its good communities and its bad. It’s got things to do and boredom that ensues. The people aren’t particular remarkable nor are they particularly unremarkable: we’re all just people going about, doing our own thing. But what SPIQS seem all too ready to forget is that it is people doing their own thing that finances their lovely State to begin with. The State does not create wealth, it merely takes a portion of that earned by its residents (good ol Pete stealing from Pauliwall). It takes from the coffers of others to fill their own. Put more clearly, the public just taxes the private sector to get its money.

And the private sector succeeds because there is an incentive to do so: money. There is a profit to be made by those doing good work. That’s why the top universities in America are all private institutions. What incentive exists in the public sphere to do anything so well? Why should the universities should be publicly funded? Because it (and vicariously, you) are so gosh darned important?

Why would anyone in their right mind want to move their company or their family to this morally depraved backwash? Well maybe because it isn’t a morally depraved backwash? In fact, companies have plenty of incentives to be moved here (through easy an easy tax system, relatively fair property management, etc). And families don’t exist in a vacuum, businesses have customers and employees and customers and employees are the same people who have families.

As for the morally depraved part, I’ll leave it to higher minds than mine to sort through the truth or falsity of such a claim (though I must admit, the statistics lean in your favor). However, if it really is such a cesspool, it would seem to have very little bearing on the amount of state government intervention in the lives of citizens as there appears to be no correlation between state action and crime rates that I can find upon a superficial first glance.

The rugged individualism Nevadans pride themselves on looks more like rugged ignorance to anyone with a brain. I forgot that it was only the “enlightened” folks who understand that coercive intervention within the lives of private citizens was the utopia we’ve all been looking for. Individualism (in both the rugged and non-rugged varieties) and its proponents are insouciant on matters of ignorance in the respect which you seem interested in.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that organizing in communes to pursue common goals for the ‘greater good’ really was a viable strategy and led to greater prosperity for all involved: if people take part in this society, their lives will be better. Do you then have the right to force people into these communes? Well the ‘ignorant’ individualist would have to say no because its simple philosophy is literally one of letting others do as they please, so long as they respect this lenience in regards to all others. I fail to see how this “live and let live” attitude would not attract most everybody…from the ignoramuses to the big-brained-Mark’s of the world.

There is no hope for this sinking ship. Finish your education and get out while the getting is good. Let these rugged individualists have the satisfaction of winning and see where that gets them. This, unfortunately, is quite telling it its Us vs. Them dichotomy. It’s fatalistic, bemoaning, and childish in that you unreservedly feel there is no solution but to up and leave (convincing others of your opinion, shaping the world with your own hands is utterly out of the question). You can’t be bothered to live around these morally inferior ‘individuals’ and they are just plain too dumb to understand the correct course of action (which is what exactly, in this situation?).

These last lines express the fingers-in-the-ears-la-la-la of prepubescent hubris all too well. It expresses the total unwillingness on Mark’s (and by and large, the entire SPIQS community) to listen, consider, and digest different points of view. So convinced are SPIQS of their position that to even engage in a debate would be detrimentally futile. After all, if you are absolutely correct (and absolutely certain in your correctness [and absolutely unwavering in your certainty]) then what is there to be gained by dialogue?  The fortifications of their minds, they feel, are so impervious that there is little reason to walk the grounds, not to mention make nice with the neighbors, the castle shan’t be stormed.

Hopefully, Mark (or any other interested SPIQS) will read this and reflect. We are all on a journey toward the truth, we’re all walking the same path. There’s no sense in stepping off of it to set up camp, claiming that that’s as far as you wanted to go anyway. We’re only on this earth for a short time and we might as well make the best of it. And I would suggest that being a smarmy, pseudo-intellectual, quasi-socialist college student is probably not the ideal way of spending that time.

But what do I know? I’m just a fiercely idealistic individualist trying to engage in discussions with as many people as I can to get even one step closer to understanding the true nature of the world and all the people in it.

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